Missionary Reflects on Service in Ukraine

Mississippi Baptist Convention Board Director of Missions Mobilization Mike Ray (left) and his family — wife Linda and daughters Hannah and Rebekah — served as IMB missionaries in Ukraine. Submitted photo Source: Baptist Press

Mike Ray and his family are very familiar with the constant unrest in Ukraine.

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board Director, his wife Linda, and two daughters Hannah and Rebekah served as missionaries in Ukraine from 1995 to 2014.

“We had two revolutions,” Ray told the Baptist Press. “Let me clarify by saying we aren’t talking about blood-in-the-streets revolutions, but there were times when major elections were overturned by people who didn’t accept the results of those elections.

Ray and his family were responsible for all IMB work in east central Ukraine. Nearly a seven-hour drive east of the nation’s capital of Kyiv.

“There were about 3,000 towns without evangelistic churches. We were responsible for church planting, discipleship and evangelism projects, and other ministries. During our time on the field, we worked with 180 different church teams. That’s not 180 churches; some churches came to Ukraine 15 years in a row.”

While there, the Rays worked under a religious visa at the invitation of Baptists in Ukraine. This gave them the opportunity to conduct their missions and activities in Ukraine. He said his primary work was in church planning but that required building relationships with the people of Ukraine, and some were skeptical.

“The political people didn’t really receive us well,” Ray said. “They thought Baptists were a cult. If you aren’t Orthodox, you’re a cult. So people such as the mayor, people in political office … didn’t look favorably on you because they looked down on the people you were serving.

“Baptist evangelicals are a small subculture there. They aren’t really respected or appreciated, but legally, we had every right to be there so we were OK.”

“We once had a million people in the streets of Kyiv, and military tanks were rolling on the outskirts of the city. There were protests in Dniprotrovsk too. In 2004, there was a major revolution called The Orange Revolution.

“In 2014, the president left the country in the middle of the night when [Russian President Vladimir] Putin took Crimea and invaded east Ukraine, which is the part of the country he is moving into right now.

“That border is about two hours from where we lived, so for about three months we had our ‘go bags’ packed. We didn’t know what was going to be on the news the next morning. We didn’t know if things were going to stabilize, just like we don’t know right now. We just knew we’d have to get in the car and start going west [toward Poland].”

To learn more about how you can be intentional about praying for Ukraine and discover ways to help, please visit SEND Relief.

Source: Baptist Press